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Resolution Strategy: Choose A "Progress" Goal

Be honest with yourself!
Sarajean is right - it's important to make your New Year's goal an achievable one. Nothing leads to a failed resolution like a ridiculously optimistic goal that you secretly know you won't be able to achieve. (Only 12% of people ever achieve their New Year's resolutions!)
One way to make your goals doable is to focus on making progress, not on achieving your final goal. After all, you will never achieve your final goal unless you make progress towards it, right?

The first step is to choose your ultimate goal. Let's say it's to "Lose 50 pounds." First, set aside the idea of losing 50 pounds in 2012. That's a possible goal, but it isn't a very likely one. And aiming for such a difficult goal will only set you up for failure.
Now the question becomes, what do you need to do in order to lose that weight? Do you need to exercise more? Eat better? Yes to both, I'm sure! (Don't we all?) 
But what SPECIFICALLY do you want to do? "Eat better" isn't a goal. It's a vague wave of the hand. It doesn't tell you anything. What is your personal eating issue? Do you eat too much fast food? Or do you have a diet that's pretty good overall, but you need to eat more vegetables? Do you think you need to kick the carb habit?
Now we're getting somewhere! Here are three potential, realistic goals from that list:
  • Only eat fast food twice a month
  • Substitute veggies for usual afternoon snack
  • No more pasta or bread
The same thing goes for "exercise more." What would that look like? Would you be taking a walk three times a week at lunch? Going for a run every weekday morning? Actually going to that pilates or spinning class every week, instead of letting yourself flake out? 
This method works regardless of the goals you want to achieve:
Step One: Identify your final goal (get out of credit card debt, lose 50 lbs, whatever)
Step Two: What do you need to do in order to get there? (Make payments, exercise more often)
Step Three: What SPECIFICALLY do you need to do? (Pay at least $100/month, go to the gym twice a week)
The final key to making an achievable resolution is to be brutally realistic with yourself. You may pledge, starry-eyed, to pay $500/month on your credit card bills. But is that a realistic amount, for your financial situation? You may find yourself wanting to promise that you'll go for a 30-minute walk every day, knowing that three walks a week would be more realistic.